You mean they’re not the same thing? That’s right, they are not.
Here is what my “What do you do for a living?” conversation goes like:
”So, what do you do?”
“Oh, well I’m a birth doula.” Now I wait to see if they’ve heard the word doula before.
Awkward silence, while I smile in anticipation…
“Well, yeah, that’s like a midwife, right?”
No. Not even a little bit.
But that’s ok! That’s why I’m here, to clear up the confusion and give more insight and awareness. Those of you about to give birth to tiny human beings, or if you know someone who is… pay attention!
A midwife is an educated professional, often a nurse with at least a bachelor’s degree, that is trained to care for pregnant women and other women’s health concerns. They make diagnoses, treat conditions, and deliver babies. They also provide care for the postpartum period and some newborn care. If a woman’s medical needs require care beyond a midwife’s scope of practice, the patient will then be transferred to the care of an OB or other specialist.
A doula, as discussed in a previous blog, is a professional trained in childbirth who provides emotional, physical, and educational support to a mother who is expecting, is experiencing labor, or has recently given birth. The doula's purpose is to help women have a safe, memorable, and empowering birthing experience. A postpartum doula provides the family of a new baby with the support and resources they need to successfully navigate the exciting and challenging time after a baby’s birth. I’ll talk more about postpartum doula work at another time. Get in touch with me if you need the information sooner!
Opinion time. Hang on while I climb onto my soapbox. Midwives and doulas, while having performed their duties with women of every culture on Earth for literally centuries, are unfortunately seen as being on the fringe of what is medically necessary or appropriate. Currently, there seems to be a stigma that the only women using a midwife are poor women who can’t afford to pay for “a real doctor.” Or, crunchy women with armpit hair who won’t tell the government they’ve had a new baby. But that’s simply not the case. Midwives work with women from all walks of life, at all income levels, and every belief system imaginable. They are supporting women in hospitals, birth centers and during safe, uncomplicated home births. They network with physicians, OB-GYN’s, nurses, homeopaths, lactation consultants, social workers and others in the birth world. They are often a great fit for women with uncomplicated pregnancies that are focused on a labor and delivery that is free of unnecessary interventions.
Doulas are an important part, dare I say a necessary part of a birth team, whether it is led by a midwife or a physician. Often the midwife has been the best support and loudest cheerleader for doulas because of their understanding that the more support a woman has surrounding the birth of her baby, the better outcomes the new family is likely to experience. Doulas are able to come along side the mother and her family and add a layer of support and advocacy that no other member of the birth team is equipped to provide. A doula can provide invaluable care during a birth, be it in a hospital, a birth center, a home, a water birth, an epidural birth, a cesarean birth… You name it, a doula can help you achieve the safe, satisfying birth you and your partner want.
Now it goes without saying (but I’m going to say it anyway) that a safe, healthy outcome for all involved is the ultimate goal. A midwife cannot attend to every birth and is trained in when/how to pass a patient along to someone more qualified. A doula isn’t going to be able to anticipate every bump in the road during labor and delivery and learns skills to deal with the unexpected. But both of these professionals add something to the birth world that others cannot provide. They can be and should be viewed as valuable members of a team of people that support and provide care for expectant families.
I would love to talk to you individually about the worth and support that a midwife or doula can bring to your specific situation. Call, or email me today.